Monaco GP 2023

MAY 26, 2023

Friday Report - Verstappen ahead of Ferraris

Max Verstappan
© Red Bull

By Luis Vasconcelos

Max Verstappen narrowly beat the two Ferrari driver to set the fastest time at the end of FP2 for the Monaco Grand Prix after Red Bull-Honda changed the setup of the RB19.

Running with a higher ride height than in FP1, the bottoming issues the Dutchman had complained of in the early session and his pace reflected that, improving 1.8s from the first to the second session.

Sergio Pérez was unable to match the progress of his team mate, the Mexican still gaining 1.1s between sessions but dropping to P7, more than half a second behind his team mate.

Ferrari confirmed the SF-23 is a force to be reckoned with in the streets of Monaco, with Carlos Sainz leading the time sheets for most of the second half of the session, once everyone switched to the softer of the Pirelli compounds. But on a last lap attempt to regain the top spot from Verstappen the Spaniard made a mistake on trhe second Esse of the Swimming Pool complex, touched the inside guardrail, breaking the steering arm and the lower front wishbone, becoming a passenger on his way to the wall on the outside of the second part of the chicane.

Fortunately for the Spaniard the damage seemed minimal, so he won’t require another monocoque to complete the weekend. Leclerc struggled a lot more than usual to get up to speed on his home track, particularly in the middle sector but continued to chip away until he was able to finish in second place, 0.042s ahead of his team mate.

Fernando Alonso was the only other driver with a chance to fight for the fastest time, the Aston Martin driver ending up in P4, just 0.22s behind Verstappen and one tenth of a second off the two Ferraris, in what seems to be his best chance to win a Grand Prix so far this season. The Spaniard repeatedly complained of traffic, showing he’s putting pressure on himself to get pole, but his situation was the same for all other drivers. Like in FP1, Stroll was no match for the veteran, ending the session in P11, half a second slower than his team mate.

For Mercedes FP2 didn’t bring the confirmation of the progresses expected from the W14, with Hamilton only 6th quickest, half a second away from Verstappen, while Russell was more than 0,2s behind the veteran, down in 12th place. Both drivers agreed they hadn’t put an entire lap together and could have done better, but Hamilton admitted the best he could have done would have been to beat Norris for P5.

The McLaren driver had his session shortened by mechanical issues, starting to run 15 minutes after the others and being unable to complete a timed lap after the red flag prompted by Sainz’s accident. In between, though, he hauled the McLaren MCL35 up to 5thplace, ahead of both Mercedes, Pérez and Stroll, an encouraging sign for the team after the terrible time McLaren experienced in Miami. Rookie Piastri was way more circumspect, ending he session in P18, lapping more than 0.7s slower than his team mate.

Finally using the upgrades Alfa Romeo had readied for Imola, Valtteri Bottas stunned the midfield by setting the 8th quickest time of the session, just 0.059s slower than Pérez, and Zhou also made progress, being 13th quickest, but more than 0.3s behind the veteran Finn. Gasly and Ocon completed the top ten on a track, where Alpine may have serious competition to be best of the rest, behind the top four teams.